Guide To Mobile Data Speeds

How fast is your phone’s internet connection? Chances are you’ve noticed the connection icon in the top left corner of your phone’s screen change throughout the day - from 4G and 3G to GPRS and EDGE. But what does it all mean?

Last updated: 1st May 2019 at 11:51am

Asda Mobile is powered by EE, the nation’s largest network, so you can sit back and relax knowing you have great coverage. What's more, our network has recently improved so that our customers can reach up to 60Mbp/s download speeds and 30Mbp/s upload speeds!

Let’s take a look at the different types of mobile data connection, and what they mean for download speeds.

How We Measure Speed2G vs. 3G vs. 4G vs. 5GSpeed MattersLocation MattersOperator RestrictionsNetwork icons

How We Measure Speed

First, let’s take a look at the technical stuff - but let’s keep it simple! Simply put, mobile data is a mobile internet connection. Your phone receives and sends (uploads and downloads) data through your mobile network, and the speed at which this data is transferred depends largely on your location.

Data is measured in bits, you may have come across terms such as kilobytes, megabytes, gigabytes and terabytes also known as (KB, MB, GB and TB). You will recognise these technical terms when ordering a data or SIM Only bundle.

  • 1000 kilobits (KB) = 1 megabit (MB).
  • 1000 megabits (MB) = 1 gigabit (GB)
  • 1000 gigabits (GB) = 1 terabit (TB)

When we’re measuring speed we talk about how much data can be moved per second. Speeds of 1 kilobit per second are insanely slow, whilst speeds of 1 gigabit per second are very fast. These days most download speeds are shown in megabits (MB), however, older 2G connections may be shown in kilobits otherwise known as (KB).

2G vs. 3G vs. 4G vs. 5G

The ‘G’ stands for generation, so 2G is short for second-generation cellular technology. 2G was used in the late 1990s until 3G was released in 1998. 2G was very basic and allowed you to send calls and texts only, whereas 3G enabled access to the internet.

Fear not - most of the UK now has great 3G and 4G coverage! But what exactly is the difference between 3G and 4G? Again, it’s all about download speed - 3G is the slowest of the two, and typically offers speeds of 400 kbps; almost double the speed of 2G connections! 3G used to be the standard across the country, but it was replaced by 4G in 2008.

4G is now the most popular type of internet connection in the UK making it possible to stream videos in higher quality, play fast-paced online games and flip through the web faster. 4G is also the fastest type so far and can reach speeds of up to 160Mbps. This is set to be replaced by 5G in the next few years, enabling us to download at even faster speeds.

Speed Matters

The faster your internet speed, the quicker your phone will be able to perform activities online. With a quicker connection, you can stream music, play online games, download, browse content, shop and watch HD videos with minimal lag.

When it comes to using the internet on your mobile or smartphone the approximate times it takes to perform certain actions will vary depending on your internet speed.

Types of Connection



Sending an Email

0.4 seconds


Opening a webpage

4 seconds

0.5 seconds

Downloading an App

1 minute

8 seconds

Download speeds are extremely important when streaming music or video. If your connection is slow your picture will be unclear or might not work at all. To watch YouTube for instance you need at least 0.5 Mbps for average quality and 4 Mbps for 1080p HD Quality. To watch Netflix in the average quality you require at least 1.5 Mbps, however, to watch it in 4K UHD you need a whopping 25 Mbps!

Location Matters

Where has the fastest speeds in the UK? Different mobile phone operators within the UK offer different coverage speeds, some rural area’s may not receive 4G on certain networks. Some places will benefit from incredibly fast 4G, while others will struggle to get even the slowest GPRS signal.

Asda Mobile is powered by EE, the nation’s largest network, so you can relax knowing you have the best coverage. So, where in the country has the fastest speeds, and who is stuck with super-slow data? You can easily check which areas you’ll get service for 4G using Asda Mobile’s coverage checker. Looking for a bundle with all the 4G data you could ever need? No contract, no limits - head to our mobile bundle's page and order your free SIM card today!

Operator Restrictions

Mobile data speeds depend on the infrastructure built and owned by operators, and there’s no way to improve these speeds without a whole new infrastructure, this is why it takes so long for new network speeds to be introduced!

Of the major networks, currently, EE (who also provide Asda Mobile’s network) and Vodafone offer LTE-Advanced Category 9 speeds as their max speed, whereas O2 and Three offer LTE-Advanced Category 6 as their max speed.

Network icons 

Some older phones may only support 2G and 3G. Within each of the generations, there are updates and therefore newer ways of receiving signal. If you are abroad and see the terms GPRS and EDGE next to your signal bar then these are basically 2G networks and are the two slowest types of internet connection. For more information check out our lists below:

2G variations:

  • If the icon shows G it is short for GPRS, has a maximum speed of 0.1 Mbps
  • If the icon shows E, this is short for Edge, maximum speeds of 0.3 Mbps

3G variations:

  • If the icon shows 3G then expect maximum speeds of 0.3 Mbps
  • H stands for HSPA, maximum speeds of 7.2 Mbps
  • If the icon shows H+ it stands for DC-HSPA+ and has a max speed of 42 Mbps

4G variations:

  • 4G known as LTE category 4 has a max speed of 150 Mbps 
  • 4G+ is known as LTE-Advanced Category 6 and has max speeds of 300 Mbps
  • 4G++ Known as LTE-Advanced Category 9 has max speeds of 450 Mbps

If you not seeing a decent speed despite having one of the latest smartphones it might be a good idea to contact your mobile operator. Your mobile operator could provide you with devices or apps that can improve your mobile reception and therefore your speeds. 

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